Academy Trust Handbook 2021 ' What's New?

Publication Date28 June 2021
SubjectCorporate/Commercial Law, Consumer Protection, Education, Trusts
Law FirmWrigleys Solicitors
AuthorMr Graham Shaw

The latest Academies Financial Handbook, now called the Academy Trust Handbook, has been published. We look here at the key changes.

The latest revision to the Academies Financial Handbook, now called the Academy Trust Handbook, was published on 16th June 2021 and takes effect from 1st September 2021.

The new edition is available here and:

  • affirms the aspiration for all schools to be part of 'a confident and successful multi-academy trust';
  • cites existing duties (not previously recorded in the Handbook) to provide 'close to a 'one stop shop' for trustees local governors and leaders'; and
  • includes new provisions ranging from off-payroll arrangements senior executive leaders and special severance payments, to the suitability of members, cybercrime, and the provision of information during an ESFA investigation.

The key changes are as follows.

Suitability of members

Section 1.4 confirms that academy trusts:

  • must ensure their members are not subject to a direction under section 128 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 which prohibits individuals from taking part in academy trust management; and
  • must not appoint a member who is subject to a section 128 direction.

Under section 128, the Department for Education ("DfE") may direct that a person may not take part in the management of an independent education institution (such as an academy trust) or may only do so where specified by the direction. Such a direction may only be issued where the person:

  • has been convicted, cautioned, found not guilty by insanity, or found to have a disability and to have committed the act charged against them, in each case in respect of an offence that is relevant to their suitability to take part in the management of an independent school (which, in the case of an academy trust, would include as a member, trustee or senior leader); or
  • has engaged in conduct aimed at undermining the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs;
  • has been found to be in breach of professional standards by a professional body; or
  • has engaged in conduct that, in DfE's opinion, makes them unsuitable to take part in the management of an independent school.

The current and some preceding editions of the DfE model single or master funding agreement already entitle the DfE to direct an academy trust to ensure a member (or trustee) resigns or is removed within 42 days in these circumstances, failing which the DfE may serve notice to terminate the funding agreement. The Handbook therefore builds on an existing contractual requirement for most academy trusts.

While section 128 directions are published on the DfE website, we recommend that declaration of eligibility forms for new members include confirmation they are not subject to a direction (or other grounds rendering them ineligible to be a member). Trustees should also be asked to renew that declaration at the start of each academic year. We can advise on your paperwork and procedures, if that would help.

The DfE may revoke or vary a...

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